One of the key goals in writing or acting, even about something that is very familiar, is to enable people to feel they are hearing the story for the first time.
In an article for the New York Times, writer Joan Didion presents her reflections on the process of turning her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, into a stage play.
The book and the play focus on the grueling year following the death of Didion’s husband, which occurred before the death of their daughter.
Practices are taking place at the moment in the rehearsal studio on West 42nd Street. David Hare from London is directing this Broadway production. Vanessa Redgrave is playing the part of Joan Didion.
Looking out from the stage Didion says:
“There are 767 seats in the Booth Theater. Those seats either will or will not be filled. It would be hard to say at this moment which prospect alarms me more: either is the nightmare in which you get pushed onstage without a script.”
In chronicling the rehearsal phase Didion identifies one of the more poignant moments:
“One afternoon three months later the three of us first heard the play, alone in the Lion Theater on West 42nd Street, an actress sitting in a chair onstage and reading. As she spoke the first words, I could not breathe.”
Getting nearer to the opening date (at the end of March 2007) Didion shares this cameo:
“Some days I think it’s working and other days I think it’s not. But I remember a February evening when Vanessa went to see the dressing rooms at the Booth. Like a mermaid sensing water, she moved to the stage. She began saying the play. There it was: Vanessa Redgrave was standing on a stage in an empty theater and she was telling me a story I was hearing for the first time.”
Source: Joan Didion, ‘The Year of Hoping for Stage Magic,’ The New York Times, March 4, 2007.
Image: Vanessa Redgrave and Joan Didion.